A senior with diabetes is likely to also have one or more other health conditions that can adversely affect health. For example, according to a Annals of Family Medicine article by E.A. Bayliss et al entitled “Barriers to self-management and quality-of-life outcomes in seniors with multimorbidities,” seniors surveyed with diagnoses of diabetes, depression, and osteoarthritis reported an average of 8.7 chronic illnesses. This can lead to multiple barriers to effectively treating diabetes.
Other Health Concerns May Make Diabetes Treatment Difficult in Seniors
Seniors who have diabetes may also have multiple other health concerns. These may or may not be directly related to the diabetes. Effective treatment of the diabetes can be more difficult to treat due to costs, physical and/or mental limitations, and time associated with treating other conditions. Older adults may experience symptoms related to diabetes, but those symptoms may be attributed to another condition, which can result in undiagnosed or inadequately treated diabetes.
An elder with diabetes may experiences changes in the senses that can alter or disrupt diabetes treatment. For example:
- Vision changes may result in inaccurate doses of insulin and other diabetic medications.
- Decreased sensation in the hands and fingers may make it more difficult to fill insulin syringes and administer shots.
- Balance issues and decreased sensation in the feet may lead to falls resulting in hip fractures or other injuries.
Many seniors experience arthritis and other conditions that can impair range of motion of the joints. This can also hamper a senior’s ability to appropriately treat diabetes. For example:
- Seniors with arthritis may have difficulty opening pill bottles.
- Seniors with diabetes may have one or more amputated limbs, which can make it more difficult to perform self-care.
- Those with decreased mobility may find it difficult to exercise and to prepare a healthy diet.
- Mobility issues may require special transportation or extra equipment in order to travel to appointments
Older adults with diabetes may experience dementia or other mental health issues, which can complicate diabetes treatment. Veterans of Vietnam may develop diabetes related to exposure to Agent Orange.
- Seniors who have PTSD may find it difficult to focus on self-care or may present challenges to caregivers.
- Depression may hamper a senior’s ability to carry out activities of daily living, including diabetes management.
- Seniors with diabetes who suffer a stroke may experience aphasia, partial paralysis, and depression with resulting barriers to effective care.
- Older adults may experience anxiety related to administering shots or organizing multiple self-care issues.
- Memory problems may result in missed appointments, misplaced medications and testing supplies, or improper dosing.
Additional chronic diseases and conditions can create barriers to treating diabetes:
- Heart disease, stroke, renal disease, cancer, and other conditions may result in immediate treatment needs with a lower focus on diabetes management.
- Smoking tends to increase complications and the death rate in seniors with diabetes.
- Illness, such as influenza, pneumonia, or shingles, may make it more difficult to treat diabetes.
Seniors with Diabetes May Have Multiple Health Problems
Older adults with diabetes are likely to experience other related or unrelated health problems as they age. All of these conditions combined can be almost overwhelming due to office visits to multiple specialists, financial concerns, and complicated coordination of care needs. Seeking holistic healthcare and effectively communicating barriers and needs can help seniors to develop a diabetes treatment plan that can be more effective and may lead to less complications and a healthier lifestyle.
This article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.